how to create stunning locations

Have you looked at another photographer’s images and wondered where they find all those fabulous locations?  Did you know that many of those locations are nothing special?  It’s true!  By using good camera angles and sometimes the magic of Photoshop you can ‘create’ those beautiful locations too!  CMpro Krista Campbell is here today to share with us how she takes a location from blah to amazing!

how to create stunning locations

by Krista Campbell

When I first discovered this passion called photography, I would always admire those lovely photographs that photographers had on their blogs of children and families in gorgeous fields of wildflowers.  At the time, I lived in the city- Phoenix, Arizona, the heart of the Sonoran Desert.  Wildflower fields and large fields of tall grass and wheat were few and far between, so I learned to create the illusion of lush fields and wildflowers with my photography.

Since then, I have relocated to Northwest Arkansas.  Spring has finally sprung here in the south and I took my daughter out last week for some magical spring pictures.  You can create magical spring images, even without lush fields and blankets of wildflowers.  Let me show you how.

Scout locations daily.

Be a diligent location-scout… scout often and everywhere.  This first location is at the entrance to my housing development.  It’s not a lush field, but actually a large empty lot.

how to create stunning locations photo

This location is in an empty lot across the street from my house.  It’s nothing special, but I noticed these small purple flowers the other day and decided to photograph my daughter in the middle of this small patch to create the illusion of a field of wildflowers.

how to create stunning locations photo

how to create stunning locations photo

Think small.

When scouting the perfect location, you don’t always need to look for large areas.  Think small.  This small patch of grass at the top of a small hill makes the perfect backdrop for magical images.  Be sure to look at the background.  When I moved slightly to the left, I was able to avoid the house in the background and get more of the trees directly behind my daughter.

how to create stunning locations photo

Get low.

You can create the illusion of a lush location by getting down low.  When you get down low, grass begins to look taller and more lush.

Here are 2 shots of my location- absolutely nothing special.  Can you see how I was thinking “small”?

how to create stunning locations photo

how to create stunning locations photo

Shoot wide open.

Or close to it…  Shooting wide open allows you to blur not-so-perfect backgrounds.  Toggle your focus points and focus on one of your subject’s eyes so that your subject is in perfect focus and everything else starts to melt away.  Shooting wide open creates a magical feel to your images.

how to create stunning locations photo

Put your subject’s back to the sun.

Mmmm, I love me some sweet, buttery backlight!  Shoot when the sun is low in the horizon (usually around an hour before sunset is best) and put your subject’s back to the sun.  Shooting wide open into the backlight helps to create the magical feel in your spring images.  Meter for your subject’s face and bring a reflector if you like. Most of the time I do not have the time to pull out my reflector, so I will throw on a white t-shirt or add light to my subject’s face in Photoshop.

Utilize the power of Photoshop.

Don’t be afraid to add a little magic in post-processing.  Because I was shooting wide open and exposed for my subject’s face, my background became blown-out.

how to create stunning locations photo

No problem!  I use my clone stamp tool and a cloud overlay to add interest and drama to the background.  This particular cloud overlay is from Florabella’s Classic Workflow & Hazy Skies Action Set, but I have also created my own by taking pictures of clouds in my own backyard.

how to create stunning locations photo

Use the clone stamp tool to add more flowers to a field, straighten a horizon, or remove distracting elements from the background.

how to create stunning locations photo

how to create stunning locations photo

I love adding magical light to my images. Sunbursts are created when shooting with a high f-stop of  f/16 or higher.  Since I shot these images wide open, the sun peeking just above the horizon was smooth and creamy, and I was not able to create a sunburst effect with the sun.  I added a starburst in post-processing.  This sunburst is from Nichole Van’s Flares & Sunbursts.  Adding a sunburst adds just the right amount of drama and enhances that magical feel to your images.  The trick to natural looking photos is to add sunbursts only where the natural sun is peeking through in the background.  Adding a sun effect where there was no sun or on a cloudy day can often lead to an unnatural looking photo.  Be mindful of the light in your image before adding a light texture or overlay.

how to create stunning locations photo

how to create stunning locations photo

As the temperatures begin to rise and that glorious sun begins to shine just a little bit brighter and warmer, I hope that these tips inspire you to go out and take your own magical, spring-inspired images.

Thank you Krista for this wonderful article!  Do you have any great tips for creating a great location?  Please share with us in the comments below!

how to create stunning locations photoKrista Campbell, Arkansas
website | blog | facebook | ask a pro
Krista is a lover of vintage props, golden fields, backlight and momarazzi- extraordinaire to a sassy 4-year old who dons pink tutus and cowgirl boots. She is an on-location, portrait photographer serving Northwest Arkansas. She is also a vendor on ClickinMoms and teaches online, post-processing workshops called Digital Darkroom Secrets.


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97 Responses to “how to create stunning locations”

  1. Ellen K in MD
    May 03 2012 at 3:57 am #

    Wow- that's some amazing stuff! :)

  2. Crysti POtter
    May 03 2012 at 4:45 am #

    this is a great tutorial and so true,,people think you have to have big spaces but there is tons of little spaces shoved here there that will work for anyone that is great..i have seen small pretty spots behind business buildings in our small town and just driving down the road,,Krista you are great,,always enjoy everything you write//

  3. elaina
    May 03 2012 at 6:05 am #

    Love this article! thanks!!!!

  4. Kristen
    May 03 2012 at 8:08 am #

    Awesome photos and great tips. Thanks!

  5. Alex Rickard
    May 03 2012 at 11:49 am #

    Wow, love this, thank you so much xxxx

  6. May 03 2012 at 2:20 pm #

    Wonderful tips Krista!

  7. May 03 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    This is a wonderful article full of great ideas, Krista. Thank you!! :)

  8. Marsha
    May 03 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    Love these tips!!

  9. Andrea Townsley
    May 03 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    This is a good article on how to use space effectively, but as far as editing the images go, it's a little much. The SOOC images are cool and underexposed. If you get it right in camera, you won't have to do all that in post.

  10. Brad
    May 03 2012 at 3:24 pm #

    Really, really helpful …. thank you so much!!

  11. May 03 2012 at 8:36 pm #

    This is a wonderful read! Very informative.. thank you!!

  12. Sarah Overland
    May 03 2012 at 11:18 pm #

    WOW WOW WOW!!! Amazing!! Thanks you so so so so much for sharing!!! <3 <3 <3

  13. mazaziman
    May 04 2012 at 1:17 am #

    awesome write up. thanks for the tips.

  14. May 04 2012 at 9:35 am #

    I'm curious to hear whether you still consider your final product a photograph. To me, it's beautiful as mixed media, but it's no longer a pure photograph after all the changes you make to it.

  15. May 04 2012 at 9:36 am #

    oh wow! stunning! can't wait to take a boo at your website/blog later tonight after my lil terror is in bed :) Thanks for sharing

  16. Novella G
    May 04 2012 at 10:03 am #

    Thanks! This a great tutorial!

  17. May 04 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Wow Krista! So fantastic and helpful. Thank you for being so generous to share all this info with us.

  18. Tanya
    May 04 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    Wow! What a great blog post! You are so sweet and generous for sharing these tips with us! I love your work! Thank you for sharing :)

  19. Tracy Bradbury
    May 04 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    Great article Krista, your photos are beautiful <3 Thank you so much for sharing :)

  20. May 04 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    I think your processing is beautiful!! The colors are just gorgeous. I believe photographer is an artist, each is special and unique. If we all have the same processing style, then the artistry of photography becomes blend and boring. Thank you for showing us how to see beauty in most unlikely places!!

  21. Sarah Vaughn
    May 04 2012 at 9:03 pm #

    Your work is just stunning, as always, Krista! You never cease to amaze me with the beauty of your work. Your processing always enhances your image perfectly!

  22. Emma
    May 04 2012 at 11:56 pm #

    Fantastic blog post Krista, so insightful. Thank you so much for taking the time to write it for us. :)

  23. May 05 2012 at 2:40 pm #

    Thank you for this wonderful article. It's nice to hear another photographer doing the same thing I do. It makes me feel I'm on the right path. lol Great story and great pictures.

  24. May 06 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    Thanks for sharing your techniques, Krista! Especially your before and afters – very inspiring!

  25. becky
    May 07 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    The ideas are good but the SOOCs are poorly exposed. Editing isn't for "fixing" poor exposure

  26. Nina
    May 08 2012 at 5:14 pm #

    thank you for great tips!

  27. Melinda
    May 09 2012 at 11:29 am #

    Wow, awesome post and your images are fabulous!!~

    Thank you so much for the wonderful tips Krista!!~



  28. Judy
    May 10 2012 at 2:22 am #

    Awesome tutorial! Photography is an art and you are a wonderful artist………thank you for sharing!

  29. May 10 2012 at 11:43 am #

    Wonderful tutorial, This will really benefit my photography.

  30. Sharon Cooke
    May 11 2012 at 5:21 am #

    Krista! Thanks so much for these tips. I live in incredibly beautiful countryside, including stone walls, and yet I haven't really scouted locations yet. Now I feel I know how and will do.

    May 20 2012 at 10:00 am #

    Why a white T-shirt instead of a reflector? I don't understand what the white T-shirt does and how it actually works I guess?

    Everything else has been a HUGE HELP! Thanks so much!

  32. Krista Campbell
    May 20 2012 at 6:02 pm #

    Candis, wearing a white t shirt acts as a natural reflector and bounces light back into your subject's face when shooting in backlight.

  33. May 30 2012 at 7:03 pm #

    Wow thank you so much for this! Great advice and perfect for me to keep in mind on shoots. I will be on the look out for 'small' beautiful locations from now on!

  34. Cassie
    Jun 04 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    Wow! Thank you so much for this tutorial! It has encouraged and inspired me to see what stunning locations I can create near my home in the city!

  35. Jun 14 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    can't wait to try these ideas!

  36. Jun 26 2012 at 8:13 am #

    Such a nice post, sometimes we have an amazing location that can be as close as our backyard just by thinking "small". Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  37. Renee
    Aug 25 2012 at 9:47 pm #

    Thank you so much for these tips! I'm learning and I'm so glad I found this article!

  38. Katie
    Aug 28 2012 at 7:20 pm #

    In the last photo before its edited her face is dark and then after its edited her face has a bright and beautiful color. How is this done? I have been trying to figure out and cant seem to on my own.

  39. Mary
    Sep 15 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    Gotta love the snobby comments about exposure, editing, etc…
    Beautiful work from a talented photographer and thanks for the informative article!

  40. Sherwin
    Oct 09 2012 at 3:35 am #

    Great Tip! Thanks for sharing!

  41. Oct 10 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    Hi Krista

    How do I get a pic like the very last one. That is beautiful, the light on her face compared to the first one is amazing. Thank you for the awesome article. Share more please.

  42. Sylvia
    Nov 25 2012 at 3:01 am #

    Reading an article with SOOC and ‘after’ photos brings me to the floor with absolute screaming joy! I am so over critical of my shots thinking they’re flat, uninteresting and most of times boring. Krista, you have changed the way I see my photos now – truthfully what is needed is a bit of PS magic. Would you share your PS techniques – what you did for your last photo for example? Would soooo love to see it! Great article – thank you!

  43. Jul 15 2013 at 3:53 pm #

    Thank you so much for this article. I learned so many things from it. I just discovered your page and blog. I’m a huge fan already! Your sharing of information is greatly appreciated.


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